By Jim Boggan
Most of what Pastor Carlo Corral does isn’t considered cross-cultural ministry.
Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Corral is now teaching and coordinating volunteers in an ESL (English as a Second Language) program based at Southwest Grace Brethren Church, in Grove City, Ohio, where Tony Webb is the pastor.
Corral, a licensed elder, is on staff with SWGBC. He is a graduate of the Word of Life Bible College in Argentina, and interned with the Hispanic ministry in the Dublin, Ohio, Northwest Chapel before moving with his wife, Jennifer McCallister (daughter of SWGBC pastoral staff member Steve McCallister), to work at SWGBC.
Nearly all of the students enrolled in the ESL program are Hispanics. SWGBC Pastor Tony Webb says the plan is to start a church for them. “Our goal is to have a Hispanic church meeting in our facility at 10:30 on Sunday mornings and mainstream their kids with our kids,” Webb says.
Since the program began in January 2004, Corral says “around 20” people have committed their lives to Jesus Christ through the classes. Sonia Peres, who is from Mexico, is one.
Peres says (with Corral interpreting) that God has made “changes in my life. I have more faith, belief, security.”
Corral talked about the differences he finds with Catholics from Hispanic countries.
“The important differences are their salvation, security in salvation, depending on Jesus alone,” Corral said. “They do know that Jesus came to die for our sins, but they don’t know how to bring that down to a personal level. They don’t necessarily know that they need to ask Him and trust Him.”
However, Corral believes that the similarities between the two belief systems will actually help to bring the students to Christ. “They are open–they are really open,” he says. “They believe in God. They believe in Jesus.”
English Brings Them In
Religious instruction is not what brings students into the program.
“Definitely, English,” Corral says. “That’s their main need. They know they could get better jobs if they knew English.”
Lori Ellifritt teaches beginners. “I was nervous at first,” Ellifritt shares, adding that prayer helped with that. “I just really enjoy working with them. It’s a fun time, getting to know them.”
The curriculum she uses with beginners makes use of a weekly vocabulary list. When students arrive for class, they read a story using words from the list then answer questions on paper by filling in the blanks.
Generally, they’re not waiting to master Webster’s before entering the workforce. Nearly all are too industrious for that. “They get here and they already have a job,” Corral says.
Sonia’s brother, Antonio Peres, is one example. He was the owner of a body shop fewer than two years after he arrived from Mexico.
Belen, his wife, is a believer. “She thanks God for letting her get to know us, and to learn the language,” Corral says, interpreting.
As the Spirit works through Corral and his volunteers, questions naturally arise. “What do you do here?” he says some ask. “Why are all these people here, teaching English?”
Sometimes the Spirit leads Corral to take the initiative. “Sometimes I just go ahead and ask them, ‘Do you know where you’re going when you die?’ If they don’t bring it up, I probably will,” he says. Spirit-led sensitivity is a necessity.
One student plainly stated that the reason she keeps coming is that Corral and the others aren’t pushy.
“I have a good opinion of Protestants,” shares Nancy Ordonez, who arrived from Ecuador in April, 2000. “They don’t ask me to become a Protestant, so that is why I continue coming.”
The program is free to the participants and involves nine different workers, including pastors McCallister and Corral. This fall 12 students enrolled in the program.
Most of the students find out about the classes through ads Corral places in a local Hispanic newspaper, La Voze Hispana. He also leaves flyers at Hispanic stores and talks with people.
But his outreach does not stop there. Using his talent as a clown, Corral also does a bilingual “magic” show and performs at church events and birthday parties, where he promotes the ESL program.
Overall, Pastor Tony Webb is happy with the progress of the ministry.
“Steve (Pastor McCallister) and I had been praying for many years, because there are so many Hispanics on the west side (of Columbus),” he says, citing that the official census is about 20,000, but there are several times that number.
Webb also expressed appreciation to Grace Brethren North American Missions for helping support the Hispanic ministry.